Hong Kong Authorities Ban Popular Protest Song in Schools as City’s Freedoms Are Further Eroded

July 8, 2020 Updated: July 8, 2020

Hong Kong authorities have outlawed a popular protest song from being played or sung on school grounds, on the same day Beijing’s national security agents set up an office in the Chinese-ruled city.

Hong Kong’s education secretary Kevin Yeung stated on July 8 that “political propaganda activities” shouldn’t be allowed in schools. He characterized such activities as: “to play, sing, or broadcast any songs” that “disrupt normal operations in schools, affect students’ emotions, or contain political messages.”

Yeung named one specific song: the unofficial anthem of the ongoing mass protest movement, “Glory to Hong Kong.” He claimed that the song contained “strong political messages” that were connected to “violence and illegal incidents” since June 2019.

“Schools must not allow students to play, sing, or broadcast it [Glory to Hong Kong] in schools,” Yeung stated.

The mass protest movement ignited on June 9, 2019, when more than 1 million Hongkongers took to the streets to protest a since-scrapped extradition bill. The protests later evolved into a broader movement to oppose Beijing’s encroachment in their daily affairs, while calling for greater democracy in the city’s political system, such as universal suffrage in elections.

Yeung’s announced ban was part of a written statement he issued in response to questions raised by education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen about students’ freedom of expression during a session of the city’s Legislative Council (LegCo) on July 8.

The ban came a day after pro-Beijing Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam refused to answer reporters’ questions during her weekly press conference about whether the song would be made illegal under the newly implemented national security law.

The song’s legality was in question as it contained the phrases “Liberate our Hong Kong” and “Revolution of our Time”—a popular protest slogan that was banned by the Hong Kong government on July 2.

The government stated that the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” was now illegal under the security law as it connotes the idea of a Hong Kong separate from China.

Yeung alluded to the possibility that more protest activities could be banned, such as forming human chains, boycotting classes, and posting slogans. He claimed that individuals and groups “have deliberately misled and incited students to express their political stances” through these activities.

“The Education Bureau and schools are obliged to stop these acts,” Yeung stated.

Banning the protest song on school grounds has further stoked concerns that the national security law will trample on the city’s freedoms. On July 7, Lam refused to guarantee press freedoms while answering a reporter’s question, which prompted the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong to issue a statement seeking government clarification on how the law will affect local media.

Beijing formally enacted the law after ceremonial votes on June 30. The law criminalizes individuals for any acts of subversion, secession, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

On July 6, the Hong Kong government gazetted details of Article 43 of the law, which includes allowing police to search private properties without a warrant, and requiring internet service providers to remove messages from their platforms—though several tech giants issued statements saying they would deny Hong Kong authorities’ requests for user data until they fully study the ramifications of the security law.

On July 8, Beijing turned a hotel near Victoria Park in Causeway Bay into the new headquarters of its Office of Safeguarding National Security. An inauguration ceremony was held outside the hotel entrance in the morning under heavy security.

Victoria Park is a popular venue for protesters in Hong Kong to stage rallies and gather for marches.

The office was set up under a provision of the national security law. The office has sweeping power with immunity from local jurisdiction.

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